KHAMA Billiat reveals his friend and Zimbabwean teammate Knowledge Musona used to call him from South Africa when he was still at Caps United and give him “false hope” about a move to Kaizer Chiefs.
“This guy (Musona) lied to me a lot when he came to Chiefs! I remember every time he called me he would tell me that ‘don’t worry, we will also sign you’. I went as far as picturing myself as a Chiefs player!”
(Musona interrupts, however:)
“But that is what they said at Chiefs because I remember when they came to Zimbabwe they spotted both of us . . . Trust me, Khama was supposed to have also been a Chiefs player when I came to Chiefs in 2009 . . .”
Kick Off (KO) tracked the Zimbabwean duo and below are excerpts of the interview. Read
on . . .
KO: How and when did you guys get to meet?
Musona: It must have been sometime in 2006 when I came to the academy (Aces Academy) from Haka United back home in Norton. When I arrived at the academy they moved me straight into the senior team which was playing in Division Two instead of throwing me into the juniors where Khama was playing. But we were still in the same class at Lord Malvern High School, and actually played with him in the school team.
Billiat: The first day that I saw this guy (Musona) he was sleeping and we only got to talk at training the following day. The people at the academy realised right away that this guy was way too good to play in the junior teams.
KO: What did you notice about each other when you first met?
Musona: I have to say that Billiat was too much into jokes and I didn’t initially get along with him because I was new and a quiet guy. He is far more talkative than me. He would make jokes about everyone at the club including me. However, as time went on we started to get along because we were training together and he could see that I could play a bit.
Billiat: Our understanding started in the school team. When we moved on to the senior team, the coaches understood that there was some kind of understanding between the two of us. We were also in the same class at school, but please let us not talk about that. The only thing that I can tell you about school is that I was the class monitor!
Musona: The only thing Billiat was good at during his school days was singing. He knows I always got better marks than him. Actually, the reason why they made him class monitor was because he was the noisiest kid in the class, so to control him they had to hand him some responsibility by making him the leader! (laughing).
KO: You have this special understanding whenever you play together . . .
Billiat: At school we used to skin a lot of opponents. There were occasions when we played some difficult opponents, but we always made it a point to discuss the plan. Right from those days we already knew how to rectify our mistakes, which we did by listening to each other. At times I would get mad at him for having failed to pass the ball to me when I was free, and he would do the same. But as time went on it became a habit for me to always check if he is free first before I think of anything else to avoid being given a lecture after the game. From there I started feeling comfortable to make a run whenever he had the ball. I think we now really don’t need to train together much before a match because we already know each other very well.
Musona: We worked on our movement from back in the days when we were at the academy. Even up to now we are still using the same movements from our days there.
KO: How did you handle going separate ways after your time at the academy?
Billiat: We first went on trials in Switzerland, but it didn’t work out because they only wanted him for an amateur team. He then came to Chiefs and I had to go back home, and moved to Caps United.
KO: How did it feel to see your colleague moving away to a professional league and having to watch him on television every week while you were at home?
Billiat: This guy (Musona) lied to me a lot when he came to Chiefs. I remember every time he called me he would tell me that ‘don’t worry, we will also sign you’. This guy gave me a lot of false hope that I will also be signed by Chiefs so much that I went as far as picturing myself as a Chiefs player.
(Musona interrupts) But that is what they said at Chiefs because I remember when they came to Zimbabwe they spotted both of us. I actually think they wanted to sign both of us with the plan being that Billiat will remain on loan in Zimbabwe. Trust me, Billiat was supposed to have also been a Chiefs player when I came to Chiefs in 2009. I am glad he signed for Ajax Cape Town the following year.
KO: Khama, you must have been relieved to finally move to the Premier Soccer League (PSL)?
Billiat: It was a great feeling to come to the PSL because at that time the biggest thing for me was just to move to South Africa since I didn’t have any other options. At that time it didn’t matter which team I was joining. After I joined Ajax I felt this was my chance to prove myself, which I am glad I did.
KO: You are now at two of the three biggest clubs in South Africa. What kind of advice do you give each other?
Billiat: We talk about the game all the time, watch football together and also review our games together like we did after the game against Bafana Bafana. After that match we only left the hotel around three in the morning, as we had been watching a repeat of the game.
KO: How often do you keep in touch?
Musona: Almost all the time!
Billiat: If he is not on Whatsapp or BBM, I call him and if I am not on Whatsapp or BBM too he also calls me.
KO: Does it help that you are friends before you become team mates in the national team?
Billiat: I think it does play a big role because we are almost always together talking about the opposition which means we have the same mindset. We obviously might not get everything the way we planned for it, but most of the things that we talk about come together on the pitch.
KO: Knowledge, when you were in Europe how often did you keep in touch with Billiat seeing he still wants to see himself going there?
Musona: When I went to Germany I didn’t have a lot of contact with him though we used to talk here and there. When I came home for holidays we always met just like we also got to be together during national team camps. I always tell him that Europe was tough and you always have to be on top of your game and be always working hard while always expressing yourself on the field for things to work out for you. As for me I always told them that Bundesliga is a tough league and you have to be strong both physically and mentally to play there because there they are utterly professional and there is no jokes about it. They don’t entertain being late for training and you have to do everything in a professional way.
Sometimes he used to watch the games on television and he saw for himself that it is not easy.
KO: How do you think Billiat would cope in Europe if he was to go there seeing that Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow showed interest in July?
Musona: He has to be strong. Stronger than he is right now because when you are working with white people some of them don’t like blacks while others do. If he is fortunate enough to go to a team where the coach doesn’t choose based on race he can make the grade. I was better than most of the guys in my team, but the fact that they had been there longer and could speak the language they had to play ahead of me. Technically, he has everything and I don’t think he can fail.
KO: What are your next moves after playing together in Zimbabwe and South Africa?
Billiat: Europe. Obviously, that is the next stage. We still want to be sitting together in Europe the way we are right now and discussing how far we have come in our football careers. We always remind each other that this is not the limit but rather part of the journey towards where we eventually want to be. We have only completely one step for now. We just don’t want to be in a comfortable zone just because we are playing in the PSL.
Musona: True to what Billiat is saying we are have big ambitions.
KO: Do you think being comfortable is what drains the ambition out of most players because once you are out of poverty you feel you have achieved?
Billiat: For me I think other players doubt themselves when they get to this stage they start thinking that they cannot do better. I don’t believe that it is about being comfortable about moving from nothing to having something. Why is it that when others have that something they still remember that whatever made them big is the same effort that they must still put in now. You must actually keep on putting more effort than before in your game in order to be a success and move into the next stage.
KO: Knowledge, you have been to Europe, what do you think is the reason why West Africans are more successful than players from south of the Equator?
Musona: When you are a foreign player at a club you cannot go there and perform the same way as the locals. You have to feel like a foreigner for real and try to do extra more than what the local guy is doing. I think that is the only thing that I think the West Africans do better . . . they work harder and show it in their work that I am not from here and I am only here to work and not for entertainment. As for us we have to do the same and know where we are coming from and where we want to go instead of being in the same comfort with the local guys. Even here in South Africa, this is not our country . . . we are only here to work and not do funny things.
Billiat: I always tell myself that it will be easy for the club to just take another local player for the same position if you are putting the same effort as a local player. It makes sense for a club not to go for a foreign player when they can easily take a local player. We really need to show that we are not from here.
My confidence is coming back: Musona
MUSONA admits he’s found the going tough since his return to Kaizer Chiefs, but warns: “My confidence is coming back”.
Musona spent two frustrating seasons in Germany’s Bundesliga, but on his return, he warned that he would be much better.
Fast forward a couple of months later and he’s yet to hit form. Musona admits PSL teams have upped their game.
“Football wise? I think most teams have good players and you cannot underestimate any team,” he tells Kick Off. “It is better than the last time I was here and I was surprised that a team like Platinum Stars was competing for the league last season. It shows that there is no small team in the PSL.”
Having said that, the 23-year-old is well aware that he has to improve his own game, but on the other hand, he remains confident that he will indeed be much better than before he left South Africa for Germany a couple of years ago.
“Yeah, you know like I said before that I have to work extra hard. I have been doing my best, but I couldn’t hit the target. It is part of football. Some big players can go for three/four games without scoring. I’m still trying to find my scoring touch, but it will improve as the season goes,” he continues. For now, though, Musona aims to enjoy playing for the Phefeni Glamour Boys rather than the pressure that comes with playing for the club.
“I can’t say I’m under pressure, but I can say I have been unlucky. It is a problem for me and I’m responsible for the misses, but it is not pressure. I think my confidence is coming back bit by bit. I’m not worried about people criticising me for not scoring and my coach just told me to work with my teammates and it will be fine,” the Smiling Assassin concludes. Kick Off